By Bob Russell
Trying to Do It All
I received recently an email from a preacher who is overwhelmed because he can’t find time to do everything he’s expected to do. His leaders are discouraged because church attendance has stagnated the past several years. In his frustration the preacher listed the assignments that were on his plate for this week:
• Organize and lead volunteer crew to build new playground.
• Meet with contractor to replace soffit inserts so birds cannot get in and make nests.
• Meet with needy family for whom we are remodeling house and place order for materials.
• Assess roof problem on carport of gym and find contractor to repair.
• Design and order new identification signs for Sunday school rooms.
• Make contacts through email and phone calls regarding small group effort for upcoming church-wide series.
• Meet with family minister and volunteer leader regarding implementation of church-wide series in our kid’s program.
• Meet with worship leader regarding music portion of worship service for church-wide series.
• Meet with family minister regarding recruiting teachers for two new Sunday school classes.
• Meet with alcoholic member and encourage him to get involved with Celebrate Recovery program.
• Make 3 or 4 pastoral calls (that should have been done last week).
• Develop bulletin material and send to volunteer for printing.
• Find time to study to preach and teach (20 hours recommended).
This minister didn’t include attending all worship services, Bible studies, board meetings, and class meetings. He didn’t mention random phone calls or 45-minute discussions with people who drop by the office unexpectedly and say, “I just need five minutes of your time.” Nothing was said about the member who asks for a letter of recommendation for her resume—and she needs it by tomorrow. The hospital emergency at midnight or the unexpected funeral at the end of the week aren’t on the list either.
Hanging by a Thread
Consider these disturbing figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute:
• 50 percent of ministers feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
• 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
• 90 percent said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be.
• 70 percent of ministers fight depression.
• 50 percent of ministers feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could but have no other way of making a living.
• 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
• 50 percent of ministers will not last 5 years.
• More than 1,700 ministers left the ministry every month last year.
• More than 1,300 ministers are terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
The solution? It begins with the church elders. Good leaders look for ways to keep their preacher focused on their calling.
I remember approaching our elders as a young minister and saying, “Guys, I’m not doing very well right now. I’m not keeping up.” They could have responded with sarcasm. But instead our elders rallied to my side and said, “We’re expecting too much. Let’s help him.” They set up a schedule to share in hospital calling. They reallocated tasks. They defended me when people questioned these changes. Because those mature elders shored up my weaknesses and reinforced my strengths, I was able to survive and advance.
Unless churches take the necessary steps to organize and help out, preachers will remain frustrated with their inability to get everything done, and congregations will remain stagnate or change ministers and hope that the next guy will have what it takes. You can make a difference. Encourage and thank your minister. Volunteer your time and effort. Start today.
God “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV 1984).
Bob Russell is the retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Copyright 2013 by Bob Russell. Permission to copy this column may be obtained by writing Debbie Carper, Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40243.